Captain Phillips 2013

Second viewing of finished film, umpteenth viewing of film in some form and I watched all the dailies while I was working on the film as an Apprentice Editor before it was moved to the UK to finish editing in order to take advantage of rebates. I'm gobsmacked by Hanks' take on post traumatic shock every time I see it, I remember watching the dailies and the first take, the medic kept messing up her take but Hanks guided her through it, reassuring her that she knew what she was doing and she would get over her nerves, I think he told her he was nervous too. Then the very next take was of the level of quality seen in the film (I'm not sure if that was the take used or if it was another one) and I remember tearing up just watching the dailies, with her cold, believable professionalism the perfect foil to the well studied performance he was giving and both of their commitment to what they are doing is just phenomenal and this is the fruit yielded by the way Greengrass works, allowing non-professional and professional to exist together with guidance but also an open forum to try things.

A scene where this approach doesn't work so well is the early driving to the airport scene with Hanks and Keener, two total pros improvising about hard work not paying off and trying to establish the message of the film with a little too much force. I remember the dailies for that scene too and they were didn't really ever work. Keener made the scene all about her fears and was setting up the feeling that something bad was going to happen, Hanks was uncomfortable working so loosely and was still working out his accent and Greengrass had his own agenda about what the scene should be. In the end, it is a very pieced together scene with a lot of ADR and even still, it doesn't really work. I know there were some early arguments for starting the film with Hanks boarding the Maersk Alabama, which I think was a non-starter because that would have meant cutting Keener completely out of the film and never establishing normalcy for Phillips outside of his career. I bet everyone involves wishes they had a little more money to reshoot that scene, I think it's the biggest flaw in the film.

Definitely the film I'm most proud to have worked on.

2 Comments

  • Really fascinating account. Thanks for sharing these behind-the-scenes insights!

    As always, Tom Hanks sounds like a total pro—and perhaps one of the nicest people you could meet—and it's also interesting to hear about what was really up with that opening. It's unfortunate that everyone involved didn't get to make the opening they would've liked, but the various intentions about what they were trying to accomplish with the scene do make a lot of sense — and heck, if I had Keener in my movie I'd do everything possible to keep her in the film for as long as I could.

    If you don't mind answering, actually, I would love to ask a question about the opening. Do you know if there was ever a specific reason for why the film doesn't begin with the original cold opening from the script, which was set aboard the lifeboat (and then cuts to "eight days earlier")? It's in the 12.9.2010/Billy Ray draft that I have, at least. I'm partly just playing a game of "what if" and entertaining my curiosity here, but I do wonder if an immediate burst of tension and suspense like that would've helped soften the uneven tone of the Vermont scenes that followed.

    At any rate, great job to all of you for an otherwise flawless edit, and thanks for helping make such a wonderful film!

  • Hey Daniel,
    I remember the cold opening from one draft of the screenplay but I don't remember it ever being considered when I was working on the film (although possibly they tried it later on). I think it was generally considered that less scenes before Hanks boards the Maersk was the better way to go in terms of pacing, which is also why some additional Vermont scenes were shot but not used.

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